Maltese citizens will finally be able to divorce in their own country after lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to allow it today, ending sharp debate on the issue in this heavily Catholic island nation. Up to now, Maltese citizens could only obtain divorce abroad. In the last 30 years, 785 Maltese couples divorced this way, with numbers gradually rising from seven in 1981 to 47 in 2010.
Parliament acted after nearly 53% of voters said "yes" to divorce in a May referendum. The vote was passed with 52 votes in favor, 11 against, and five abstentions, while one MP was absent, a crushing result considering that most laws in Malta are passed by just one vote. Nineteen Nationalist MPs approved the legislation, going against the ruling party's official stand. The law takes effect in October, after Malta's president is expected to sign it.